Sports

Holy Cross Names 1st-Ever Varsity Girls’ Hoops Coach

Tom Catalanotto is set to be the first-ever varsity girls’ head basketball coach at Holy Cross H.S. (Photos courtesy of Tom Catalanotto)

Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, has named the first girls’ varsity basketball coach in the school’s sports history.

Tom Catalanotto is no stranger to the local GCHSAA basketball league. He most recently coached the past eight seasons at Msgr. Scanlan H.S., the Bronx — where he turned the girls’ program into a perennial contender.

Originally from Flushing, Catalanotto attended Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. It was there that he was first introduced to the coaching legend Jack Curran, who coached basketball and baseball at the school for more than 50 years.

While he coached his kids — Christine, Tommy, and Billy — in Catholic Youth Organization baseball and basketball at St. Andrew Avellino, Flushing, Catalanotto became close with Curran during the latter’s annual summer camps. Catalanotto provided the portable hoops from the parish for Curran’s camps.

Meanwhile, Catalanotto’s daughter Christine was a point guard at Christ the King H.S., Middle Village, who played for another local coaching legend, Vinny Cannizzaro, who built the girls’ program into the national powerhouse it is today.

“Not too many people can say they’ve talked to Vinny Cannizzaro and Coach Curran in the same day,” Catalanotto said. “I would speak to both of them on a regular basis. They were my mentors and had a great influence on me as far as coaching goes.”

Archbishop Molloy went co-ed in the fall of 2003, at which point Catalanotto returned to his high school alma mater as an assistant coach on the girls’ varsity team. In the first few years of the program, he helped oversee the development of standout players and GCHSAA Hall of Famers Rosalyn Gold-Onwude and Jessica McEntee.

Catalanotto most recently coached the past eight seasons at Msgr. Scanlan H.S., the Bronx.

From there, he had coaching stints at Francis Lewis H.S., Fresh Meadows, and The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates. Soon after, he was back at Archbishop Molloy as the girls’ varsity head coach. In 2011, his team won the GCHSAA state and federation title.

Before Catalanotto took the job at Msgr. Scanlan, the team had not won a single game in 10 years. However, he viewed his tenure there as a clean slate and an opportunity to build a competitive program from the ground up.

“If kids want to be part of something and they buy in and they work hard, I know I can get them to win games,” he said. “It’s all a mindset.”

That’s exactly what happened. After a few seasons of laying the groundwork, Msgr. Scanlan won the archdiocesan city championship in three of the past five seasons and earned a berth in the GCHSAA state championship final each of those three years.

“What happens is that when you start having a little bit of success, kids want to come play for you,” Catalanotto said. “That’s basically how everything turned around at Scanlan.”

Heading into this fall, Catalanotto is set to use the experience he gained at his previous coaching stops to lead Holy Cross. The Knights will compete in the GCHSAA’s ‘A’ division, and since the school went co-ed in 2018, the team still won’t have any seniors.

“As long as they buy in and work hard, we will compete,” Catalanotto said. “I don’t doubt that at all. Who knows? We may surprise people.

“This is another challenge, and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the tradition at Holy Cross both academically and athletically.”

With the support of his wife Nancy, his three children, and his two granddaughters Adriana and Cristina, he’s ready to write the next chapter in Knights’ sports history.

“I’m just happy to be back in Queens,” he said.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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